Now, over a half-century since its inception, the National Book Awards continues to recognize the best of American literature, raising the cultural appreciation of great writing in the USA while advancing the careers of both established and emerging writers like Richard Powers, Jonathan Franzen, and Lily Tuck.
Here are the 2011 nominees for the fiction category:
The Buddha in the Attic
by Julie Otsuka
Julie Otsuka’s long awaited follow-up to When the Emperor Was Divine tells the story of a group of young women brought over from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. The Buddha in the Attic traces their extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.
“This lyrically distilled and caustically ironic story of exile, effort, and hate is entrancing, appalling, and heartbreakingly beautiful.“- Booklist
Binocular Vision: new and selected stories
by Edith Pearlman
Spanning four decades and three prize-winning collections, these twenty-one classic selected stories and thirteen scintillating new ones take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales, and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them, are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.
“Give this wonderful collection to fans of such classic short story writers as Andre Dubus and Alice Munro and novelists like Nicole Krauss. They will thank you.” – Booklist
by Andrew Krivak
Uprooted from a nineteenth-century mining town in Colorado by a shocking family tragedy, young Jozef Vinich returns with his father to an impoverished shepherd’s life in rural Austria-Hungary. When war comes, Jozef is sent as a sharpshooter to the southern front, where he must survive the killing trenches, a perilous trek across the frozen Italian Alps, and capture by a victorious enemy. Strikingly contemporary though replete with evocative historical detail, The Sojourn will join the ranks of the great classic fiction of World War One.
“Krivak dexterously exposes the stark, brutal realities of trench warfare, the horror of a POW camp, and the months of violent bloodshed that stole the boys’ innocence. Once home from war, the author’s depiction of Jozef’s arduous return to life, love, and family is charged with emotion and longing, revealing this lean, resonant debut as an undeniably powerful accomplishment.” – Publishers Weekly
Salvage the Bones
by Jesmyn Ward
A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker largely absent, he doesn’t show interest in much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fifteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pit bull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting.
“It’s an eye-opening heartbreaker that ends in hope. Highly recommended; you owe it to yourself to read this book. “- Library Journal
The Tiger’s Wife
by Téa Obreht
In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.
“Moments of breathtaking magic, wildness, and beauty are paired with chilling episodes in which superstition overrides reason; fear and hatred smother compassion; and inexplicable horror rules. Every word, every scene, every thought is blazingly alive in this many-faceted, spellbinding, and rending novel of death, succor, and remembrance.“- Booklist